Mom suffered a stroke 6 years ago and we thought we'd lost her then. But she rallied and held on. It has been a long 6 years for her - for my dad - for all of us. Mom died last Friday night.
The last 6 months have been especially hard and it is a mercy that she has passed on. We were with her for most of the day last Friday. She knew we were there and she knew how much she was loved by all her kids and by her husband. We went home late that afternoon. Mom knew that Dad would be back at 9:15 pm. She waited for him. When he came back, she slipped away. The rest of us re-gathered at her bedside and kept vigil. It was powerful - and ordinary too.
Each of my brothers and sisters and I (there are 5 of us) wrote a bit in honor of her. Here's what I wrote. (It has Yoga teachings embedded in it - so it counts as a Yoga-blog-post :)
Mom was a genius at connecting people. She extended her interest, concern and attention into SO MANY corners of life…... as if to say – “God does not live in the sky. but is right here in the muddy messy middle of life….AS IT IS….and in every human heart – AS IT IS.
She expressed this innate and embodied wisdom through extensive service work. As a mom she got this message across to her kids by getting us involved in service work. Most of the volunteer work took us into sectors of society that were not "nice"………….
FOR EXAMPLE –when I was 15, with Mom orchestrating, I signed up to volunteer at Eastern Washington State Mental Hospital. Here’s how I spent my summer vacation: checking in with catatonic patients, lobotomized patients, severe schizophrenics, and hydro-cephalic children that would live their entire life in the same bed.
I can guarantee you that I was way too self-involved to have dreamed up that plan for my summer. It affected me profoundly and cultivated in me at least the beginnings of an inkling of an idea of what Mom knew and practiced – compassion and connection. She knew –that that there are no “throw away people” ....that everyone is worthy of attention.
She connected and took a lively interest in each of the parade of caretakers that came through her life during the 6 years that she was bed-ridden. For example - I remember Mom and Dad talking about one caretaker who was larger than life – in every way…..and who got more outrageous and flamboyant with each telling - like in a proverbial fishermans’ story. This woman – like many of the caretakers - was not part of “polite society”. She drove a Cadillac with her pet boa constrictor in the back. She was scary…someone your average person would not want to get too close to. But Mom was not daunted…..not one bit. She got to know her – got close to her - asked her all about her life, her kids, her boyfriends, what she hoped to do next in her life.
She gave this kind of attention to every single caretaker…... Even at the end…..when she could barely talk, she would still ask the aides and nurses when they got off shift, or if they had gotten enough to eat.
They say that Attention is Love – and that God is Love……Put those 2 together to equal: Mom extended God’s love all over the place – all through her life – not waiting for the convenient circumstance or the acceptable person……but simply paying attention to people as they are – in life AS IT IS……right up to her last breath………and beyond.
Her obituary here.
Tomorrow begins a 7 day Teacher Training at Garden Street. I've been living the last 8 days at nursing homes and funeral homes and cemeteries, which has been good - if not easy. It has been "applied Yoga". I am looking forward to re-engaging the Yoga teaching world. Things have been so unsettled in that world.......what with the anusara debacle. Relative to all of that I've mainly been practicing perseverance in the sense of forbearance. In fact, the whole first half of the year has been like sitting at the bedside of a beloved - knowing that things are not looking good. But now I am ready to go forward, to putting the practice of perseverance into "forward" motion. I just finished writing to one of the lovely people who will be showing up for teacher training tomorrow morning (that'd be you, Liz) - "People just keep showing up for Yoga – going forward……trusting what they have experienced locally and directly and not paying much attention to the abstract, the virtual and the national. That gives me heart for the next stretch of road ahead…..like the one we start together tomorrow".